Buzz Beachball is a one-day festival that jams a bunch of alternative acts together into one sweaty afternoon and evening every year. For 2011 these bands included Jane’s Addiction, Incubus, Bush, Neon Trees, Awolnation, The Nightwatchman and a slew of bands on the second stage.
The concert was held at the shiny new Livestrong Sporting Park, the pitch where the Sporting Kansas City kick the soccer ball around. I was at the stadium a short six days before for Farm Aid 26. Beachball would have much more energy than Farm Aid and be a very different environment.
Farm Aid had one stage and seating on the field while Beachball would have two stages and an all general admission floor. The two stage setup worked really well for the amount of bands at this show. The delay in between sets was kept to only a few minutes for the first about four hours of the show really keeping the crowd going and keeping their minds off the blistering sun. A band would play the second stage then a band would play the main stage and so on until the “headlining” acts took the stage.
The second stage featured a total of four bands all playing half-hour sets. First up were Givers, a Louisiana band that wasted no time in getting the crowd energized with their intoxicating “Up, Up, Up” that sounds like Vampire Weekend with female vocals added. Givers put together a solid set and got the crowd into the concert mode with their upbeat sound.
The Beautiful Bodies would take the second stage next with their hard rock sound. They are a Homegrown Buzz artist so the crowd was familiar with their music through the radio station which really helped in their response to the large audience. Another local band would follow with Quiet Corral from Lawrence, Kansas. The band stood out in the lineup with the most mellow sound of the whole event. I thought they were the most impressive act to take the second stage. Quiet Corral had a soft, non-offensive sound reminiscent of The Avett Brothers and Wilco. The band is closer to folk-rock than the Incubus-Jane’s Addiction style hard rock that represented the evening.
Middle Class Rut headlined the second stage and played immediately before the big acts started taking the stage. The fit the sound of the show better than Quiet Corral and blasted through a brief set of Jane’s Addiction inspired rock. Middle Class Rut went over well with the crowd and were a nice lead in for the big three acts.
The Nightwatchman took to the stage when the sun was still burning down and revealed somewhat of a new sound from what he is know for. Tom Morello is The Nightwatchman, he is also the guitarist for 1990′s heavyweights Rage Against The Machine. The Nightwatchman has been a largely acoustic venture thus far for Morello but that changed when he strapped on a electric guitar and blasted into “It Begins Tonight” from his brand new album World Wide Rebel Songs. He then electrified the only song from the Nightwatchman’s previous catalog he would play next with “One Man Revolution.”
Morello would scale back the blast of electric guitar afterwards by taking his acoustic guitar and tackling three more new songs before ending his set with a very cool version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” Morello played three different guitars; one saying “Arm The Homeless” one saying “Black Spartacus” and the last being his signature Nightwatchman guitar possessing the phrase “Whatever It Takes.” Morello played in sunglasses and conducted the set as if he were a drill sergeant at one point telling the crowd they did not respond correctly when not yelling loud enough.
Awolnation took the stage to a surprising amount of fanfare. They band radiated enthusiasm as the worked through songs from their debut album Megalithic Symphony. Lead singer Aaron Bruno came out to the rock star treatment of having his band start the song before he appeared. What followed was a mixture of electro-pop and groove-driven rock that had the crowd slam dancing and crowd surfing. The bands biggest response came with their single “Sail” but the highlights from their time in front of the audience were with songs “Soul Wars” “Burn It Down” and “Jump On My Shoulders.” The band played a tight set that never lulled in energy or stamina.
Neon Trees were next up on the main stage and didn’t fail to deliver energy either. Lead singer Tyler Glenn stole the show from his band mates putting himself front and center for the duration of their 40 minutes at Beachball. Glenn at one point threatened to show the crowd his “sparkly underwear” then later delivered on that threat by spending almost an entire song dancing around the stage with his pants around his ankles. Glenn was nothing short of flashy with his red mo-hawk and David Bowie-esque stage antics. Neon Trees sounded largely electronic as they worked their way through their neo-punk/new wave songs. Their biggest response naturally came from their mega-hit “Animal” with its very sing-along friendly chorus.
The big acts would follow next starting with one of the faces of 90′s alternative in Bush. Gavin Rossdale still has the ability to captivate an audience as he strapped on a guitar and tore into “Machinehead” off the band’s unquestioned masterpiece Sixteen Stone from 1996. Bush would devote over half of their short set to songs from the 15 year old album, performing “Comedown” “Machinehead” “Little Things” “Glycerine” and “Everything Zen” all from that release.
Rossdale would make his way down to the fence a couple times to be close to the audience during a few numbers including a nice cover of the Beatles “Come Together.” The band is preparing to release their first album in roughly 10 years in a few short weeks but stuck mainly to the classics that the audience went crazy for. Rossdale had is trademark moment of being alone on stage solo electric performing “Glycerine” before being joined by his bandmates to bring the song home. The highlights of Bush’s set were squealing guitar of “The Chemicals Between Us” and the stellar closer “Comedown.”
Incubus were the first band to start under the lights instead of the sun on the night. They took full advantage with an elaborate stage-show featuring oodles of smoke and lights. They also played some music as they went old-school with “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here” right out of the gun. They would then go to their newly released If Not Now, When? with the song “Adolescents.” They would deliver favorites instead of new material on the night for the most part as they did four songs from their newest album just released in July of this year. Singer Brandon Boyd would keep the audiences’ attention by moving around a lot and of coarse for the ladies taking off his shirt, as is customary for him to do.
They would sound best with their most rocking songs, namely the highlight of the show “Circles” It fell in middle of the set but stood out alongside of other material as a highlight. The set dipped and got a bit trance-like on either side of “Circles” and “Vitamin” that followed it. They would recover and end with a blast with the great back-to-back burst of “Nice To Know You” and “Megalomaniac.”
Jane’s Addiction came out to a considerably smaller crowd than Incubus. There was no doubt that more people came to see Brandon Boyd and Incubus than Jane’s Addiction. Jane’s Addiction got the treatment of a curtain to separate the band from the audience which was necessary for the burst of energy out of the gate as two tattooed women in nothing but black underware came swinging out over the crowd as the curtain fell as the band blasted into “Whores.” Perry Farrell then promised that Hurricane Jane was here but proceeded to lose the momentum with the crowd by proclaiming he was in Missouri instead of Kansas (where he actually was.) He may have just acknowledged this so he could use the state’s slogan (“The Show Me State”) to solicit the audience to “Show Me Some Titties.” The crowd was polite so they kindly obliged but it seemed a little juvenile and silly for Ferrell to try that hard for that result.
The band stuck to a greatest hits setlist instead of pushing their new album that is due at the end of September. Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell led the band through about a dozen songs from the on-again, off-again band. The band played “Just Because” “Been Caught Stealing” and “Jane Says” and the crowd always responded well but the set seemed to lack the punch it could of. It wasn’t really from a lack of people, it was more from an abundance of space in the large stadium. Jane’s Addiction was the headliner in name only on this night as it seemed Incubus was better received, played better and had many more fans in the stadium.